Is The Personal Finance Community Too Judgmental?

wpid-20140713_232643.jpgWhen one opens their lives up on the internet be it though engaging in social media, blogging  or uploading cute pictures of your kids on Instagram, like it or not, you are willingly opening your lives up to outside criticism. This is especially true of blogging and a huge reason why it requires a bit of thick skin. You are, without a doubt, going to get backlash from casual readers to fellow bloggers. Creating a variance in conversation is what I love about blogging though so I welcome it, life would be pretty boring if people agreed with everything I said and did. We grow as people through exploration and accepting changes.

Last week I published a post titled ”How much is too much for groceries”. If you read my blog regularly, or even know me personally, you know I was by no means trying to ”bash” anyone or have a ”holier than thou” attitude. I was, in all honesty, looking to do what bloggers do best, create conversation. As someone who only spends about $500 per month on food, $800+ seemed like a lot to me, I didn’t say it was as lot for everyone nor was I trying to imply you’re a bad person if you spend more than what I spend on food every month, I genuinely wanted to know how far off the mark I was with my readers for average money spent per month, that’s it.

When comments started coming in, with quite a few new people popping up (thank you for stopping by), I was a little surprised at the interpretation of my post and other people’s comments. There was more than one comment stating in various words that the personal finance community was in general too judgmental (of non-PFers I imagine) and one person even said they limit their engagement within the community because of said judgement. While I thank you for your comment I feel like I need to defend the online community I am apart of, again please feel free to disagree.

While there is an extreme variance in what you will find within this community, everything from the extreme savers, early retirees, people in debt, millionaires, struggling students and everything in between, my experience is that people who blog and engage in this community do so to learn. We learn through interactions, posts, comments, arguments, reading, getting opinions, you name it. Though there has been many posts I disagree with I never felt that post was written in a judgmental tone, I simply have a difference of opinion, difference in experience or all together may think it is outright wrong. That doesn’t mean they are judging me for being different.

Had I written the post and finished with ” You’re all idiots and suck as humans if your family of six can’t or isn’t willing to eat on $400 per month” then yeah, that’s a judgmental and bitchy thing to do but for the most part the personal finance community offers opinions and questions to be challenged. My mission with the post in question was accomplished. People clearly pointed out how easily their family sustains themselves on $200-250 per week for a multitude of reasons and for that I thank you for offering me insight, even if I likely will never be in your position, I thank you for enlightening me, it was all I wanted.

I’ve said this before but I didn’t know personal finance was a ”thing”. I started this blog blindly and am so thankful for the internet niche I have stumbled into. Thank you for your comments, your encouragement, your disagreements and your lack of judgement when I’ve put myself out there. Maybe I’m alone but no, if we’re generalizing, the personal finance community is not judgement unless you include the personal challenges it may provoke, for that there is no apology.

I Asked and Got a Raise!

wpid-img_20130830_100750.jpgA few weeks ago I inquired on Twitter how often one should expect a raise and at what percentage. The most common response being ”annually, and inflation rate”.

I have never had to ask for a raise. I’ve negotiated my starting rate or salary but never had to ask for one. It was always given to me at a rate which I thought was fair but since being back to work from maternity leave, going on 16 months, I haven’t received one. Though I assumed it was an oversight by my employer, I decided to wait until the end of the summer (when my raises usually are) to approach the subject. When September rolled around with no pay increase was reflected on my pay stub, I brought it up.

My boss and I have a very casual relationship where we tend to do our best chatting via text and email. I work exclusively with him for 16 hours a week but we never actually have time to speak ourselves. We’re both very busy and no time to chat. Rather than just corner him one day during his only five minute breather, I planted a seed via text with a ”hey, I’d like to chat with you in the next week or two about a potential raise”. This way he knew I needed time and what it would be about. Nothing worse than catching your boss off guard when you want to talk about money.

I respected the fact that he was busy and waited a week. When we didn’t have time, and after he didn’t bring it up, I reminded him during one of our other conversations about work simply saying when he had a minute I was going to email him a document to look over regarding my potential raise.

My husband’s cousin works in HR and was able to provide me with a very detailed, province and city specified payroll document outlining basically everything about my job broken down by everything from years experience to dental specialty. It was a mecca of information and statistics. Though I was getting a fair wage, there was room for improvement based on this new found information exposing my entire field of work, I was prepared. I handed over the document and wanted to see what he thought was fair before I came at him with my (potential) counter offer.

I was also prepared to discuss my job, the vital roles I fill and my effectiveness as an employee. Though I was pretty sure he was aware at how vital I was after working together over five years, I was prepared none-the-less should the discussion come to it.

I was pleasantly surprised this week to see a 5% raise reflected on my pay stub. In my case there was very little negotiation actually took place. Once he had this document it was really all he needed and 5% was more than fair.

A few people have asked what I plan on doing with the raise, 75% will be going directly towards debt, helping me meet my goals and the other 25% being added to kiddos monthly RESP (education savings), no lifestyle inflation for this family, not yet at least ;)

Can We Pay Off $70,000 in 36 Months?

I was playing around with my trusty calculator last night to see where our debt stood. As of this month we owe a bit over $80,000 ($80,400). While this number seems impossibly large can we please remember that just two years ago our debt was closer to $109,000 (highest non-mortgage debt close to 116k). Since starting this blog, we’ve paid off $29,000 in principle debt, most of which was paid down in the last 15 months since my return to work full-time after my year long maternity leave.

While $29,000 is a decent accomplishment for 24 months by anyone’s standards, I’d like to attempt to kill $70,000 (of the remaining $80,000) in 36 months.

Why not worry about the other $10,000?…

The last debt that we’ll be paying off is my nationally issued student loan. A loan I currently make interest-only payments on and a loan which I can claim the interest paid as a tax deduction. Once the other $70,000 is paid off it will only take about five more months to pay this 10k loan off and again, all interest paid is a tax deduction where all other debt is not.

My Plan:

  • Pay off 0% interest loan first: $13,064 to be paid off in 12 months= $1088/month while making minimum required payments on all other debts. Total monthly debt total required: $2,064.
  • Come October 2015, 0% loan will be paid off and in following 24 months pay off remaining debt which includes student lines of credit and vehicle. I choose to pay the balance of the vehicle next for a few reasons. One, I like the idea of the vehicle being paid off in case something happens to it. Two, our auto insurance will likely decrease with paid off vehicle and three, it’s the largest single debt payment per month with a large portion going towards principle allowing us to pay it down quickly by snowballing out previous debt payments.
  • From Nov 2015- June 2016 (kiddo’s 4th bday!) pay off vehicle balance of what will be $13,200 (payment required $1,650/month)
  • From July 2016- Dec 2016 pay off two of three student lines of credit. Balance between the two will be about $9,800 (payment required $1735/month)
  • From December 2016-November 2017 (final payment the 1st of the month) pay off remaining $23,000 student line of credit (payment required $2,010/month).
  • December 2017 debt remaining (national student loan): 10,376 which will only take 5-6 months to pay off.

I have to be honest this is my ”life happens” plan. I’m fairly confident we should be able to do this. The evening out of some months being great and others not so great should make this plan possible. Though I am hopeful we can be done earler than projected, I have to remember that it takes $2,000 extra just to knock off one month of this plan so realistically this is the plan that we’ll execute within a month or two. Here’s hoping we can make this all possible!

How Much is Too Much for Groceries?

The other day I was reading one of my favorite personal finance magazines. Each issue they profile a person or family giving details of their entire financial life. I love reading about how other people live, even if they’re not at all comparable to my situation.

Anyway, this particular family wasn’t too far off from our financial picture in terms of income. Though our income is brought in between two working individuals, this family had one income (albeit large) while mom stayed home with two young children and managed everything else in the home. What always surprises me when reading these profiles like this, is how much money families and individuals delegate for groceries.

In these profiles, groceries are separated from eating out so it’s not one generic ‘’food’’ line.

This family of four, two adults, two young kids (under five I believe), budget $9,800 per year for groceries. In case you don’t feel like doing the math, that’s over $800 per month for a family living in one of Canada’s largest and most financially stable cities. I just can’t see how?

We live in a fairly expensive city in terms of food, not outrageous but the high price of gas alone on this side of the country drives food prices up. For our family of three, on an expensive month we might spend $500. I buy a lot of fresh produce and lean meat. Even if we add another mouth to feed, the max our grocery bill would get to is maybe $550 and I really think we could sustain our family’s food budget at the $450-500 mark no problem even with the fourth mouth to feed.

What are these people eating for $800 per month? I buy decent meat and produce. Are they buying pre-packaged meals for that amout of money? I just don’t understand. Even if we add in stuff like toilet paper and cleaning stuff throw in an additional $10 per month…

Keeping food costs down can be a callange. It requires planning, there’s no way about it. Every week my husband and I spend probably 30 minutes planning out our week of meals and I go to the flyers to seek out the best deals. If we plan a meal I don’t think is feisable that week, we wait for the ingrediants to go on sale and decide on something else. The more we plan and get organized, the easier it is. I constantly look for new recipes that I can make for cheap, are healthy and provide a large meal. I just made a huge batch of soup for dinner and we now have lunches for the next two days, total cost was less than $9.00 for six adult-size servings and this was expensive in my mind for a soup.

I could think of a lot I could do with $300 per month. In this situation the mom was concerned they wern’t saving enough for the kids post secondary, if they’re that concerend (though at the end of the day they had more than enough to invest), they could start by looking at their variable espenses like their food because I can tell you without a doubt there is no reason to spend that kind of money on groceries!

How much do you spend on groceries? Are you comfortable with this amount or would you rather spend more/less?

Get to Know Me! I was Nominated For the Versatile Bloggers Award!

versatile-blogger-awardI’d like to thank Jordann for nominating me for this fun award. I love getting to ‘’know’’ other bloggers from around the web though don’t know how interesting my facts will be!

Seven random facts you probably don’t know about me (even though I feel like my entire life is on the internet).

  1. I love gross stuff, nasty teeth included

My two favorite undergrad courses were entomology (study of insects) and parasitology (study of parasites). Nothing cooler than looking at a hookworm under a microscope, eh? And your mouth? Yeah, there’s nothing I haven’t seen, trust me. I’ve seen everything from the sever drug user to the 58 year old who has never been to the dentist before so no, you really don’t have to apologize for eating a muffin before coming in to see me. Nothing more satisfying than a good ‘’before’’ and ‘’after’’ ;)

  1. I have zero self control with sweets

As long as I don’t have them around me I’m ok but if it’s in the house I eat it until it’s gone or I’m physically ill. Nutella is the worst.

  1. I love reading

The Outlander series is consuming my life right now. My sister-in-law has been after me for years to read the books but it didn’t seem like my type of book so kept putting it off. I also get really board with series. She finally convinced me when the first book was made into a show and told me how good it was…I started the first book and was hooked after about 200 pages. I’m now binge reading, almost done the second book (each book is almost 1000 pages). Hoping to be on the third book by the time this post is published.

  1. I’ve held a book published in 1758

When I was in university I did a class on science and religion. We needed to profile a person who was known in both circles and I chose Carl Linnaeus, who is considered the father of modern day biological classification system. Anyway he wrote a famous book called Systema Naturae and when doing said paper I was fortunate to go to a library that held one of the original copies of the book. It involved going into a humidity controlled and secured room and swearing on my life I wouldn’t harm the book. One of my favorite university experiences.

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  1. I love to color

I could spend hours with a new box of crayola crayons and a coloring book. Both of which I have around all the time now because of kiddo except she snaps the crayons in half and my soul dies a little each time.

  1. I love playing games

My idea of a good night is hanging out with all my best friends and/or family and playing games. Anything from crib to Cards Against Humanity!

  1. I would love to move to Germany

My husband and I lust for a move to Europe. I would love to raise my daughter there (hello Germany now offers free tuition!) but for many reasons we can’t, at least right now. I can’t imagine pulling my daughter away from all the people who love her here so our dream will have to wait, maybe some day.1914000_590942689899_3013122_n

Now, the seven bloggers I’m nominating to also partake in the challenge:

September 2014 Debt Repayment Update!

wpid-img_20140928_134041.jpgSoooo where did September go? Fastest month all year, by far. Last weekend was a stunning way to end the summer. It was sunny, incredibly warm and the perfect way to say goodbye to summer 2014. After looking at the weather on Saturday my sister-in-law and I quickly decided to figure out a way to get outside on Sunday and enjoy what Mother Nature was gracing us with. We went for a little drive and went for a hike and it was beautiful. A spot I drive by many times but never go to but will definitely be going back before snowfall! The photo was taken at the top of the hill we climbed.

September was a decent month for us. I was able to put a total of $2,100 towards debt. I was really hoping to put $2,200 but came short by just $100 which is about the amount I needed to re-add to our ER fund. An extra $665 is pretty decent though so I’ll take it. I worked a few extra shifts in September and though I hated every second of that five-day work week (hated the time spent at work, not the job), I liked the extra cash. First world problems, I guess.

I had an ambitious goal last October of putting 20k towards our principal debt by end of 2014 but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I haven’t done all the number crunching yet but it’s looking like I’ll be short by $2,500-$3,000. I know $18,000 in principle debt paid is still great but I hate not meeting my goal!

If you follow me on Twitter you probably saw that my new computer decided to crap out on me the other day. We’re still not sure what’s going on but in the process of getting it taken care of this week hopefully. My heart sank as I thought about my forecasted budget being lost…done until February 2015 with notes galore reminding me of stuff. I accepted it may be gone, at the very least I have zero access to it right now, so I re-did the whole thing from scratch (with major help from my husband) and it’s now a Google doc. Why I didn’t do this in the first place. Now I’m just hoping I didn’t lose the 8G worth of pictures I just uploaded from my sD card, 14 months worth of photos. UGH. Fingers crossed the issue is a warranty fix and my darling two-year-old didn’t dump water/juice/freezie/spit on it without me knowing while watching ”Frozen” for the 2828412584 time.

I know Jordann is kicking ass and trying to make that 25k Net Worth by her 25th birthday….How did everyone else do?

How Do You Fight Emotional Spending?

My kiddo has been quite  clingy the last few days, I managed to snap a picture of her needing to hold my hand :)

I’d rather just do this.

There was a time in my life where I would spend money on crap I thought I needed but really I was looking to fill some ill feeling. I was never one to shop when I was super happy, only when I was bummed out about something. Usually an emotional thing that I didn’t want to deal with. Retail therapy allowed me to procrastinate with facing the issue and often, temporarily, eased the discomfort. I was always in my right mind to know even at the time exactly what I was doing but did it anyway, often leaving me feeling worse for wasting money.

I honestly don’t know what or when things changed for me but this isn’t something I do anymore. It’s not even anything I want to do. Sure there are things I want but I no longer shop emotionally. I’m going to assume the tiny human I care for has a huge part in this but I can’t say for sure I changed as soon as I became pregnant but I’m sure my lack of free time has a lot to do with it!

I don’t really get trigger happy to buy crap I don’t need, instead I’d rather watch my debt go down. Seeing that number decrease is enough for me to say ”I don’t really want that” and don’t give it a second thought but not everyone is like that. I feel like I’m a minority in my life. Most of my peers would much rather have that new toy than not. I don’t think it’s a keeping up with the Joneses thing, I really think they just want to buy stuff for them rather than to say ”look what I have and you don’t”.

Fighting the Urge

It can be tough to resist your desires to waste money. If you’re looking to spend money on something you need to figure out if this is an emotional purchase. If you’re not in the most sound state of mind, walk away from the purchase. If you still think you really want, or need said item after the emotions have chilled out a bit, return to it but while you’re in any sort of emotional distress, don’t buy anything or you may come to regret it.

Keeping a list of needs with you may help distinguish between a true want and need. Since we’re more apt to spend money when we’re not thinking clearly, having a go-to list may help. This may sound crazy to some but something both my husband and I do. While this list includes wants as well as needs it acts as a good reference, I really need a new pair of scrub pants for work since putting a hole through them, I don’t need a three tier cookie rack for baking. Sometimes I just need to look at the list to remind myself.

Another trick is to just leave your wallet at home if you don’t think you can be trusted. I know a certain sister of mine who would do a lot better if she just didn’t have the immediate access to cash all the time. After a crappy day at work I can guarantee you can find her at some local store looking for something to buy. Even though it may not be a lot of money these purchases add up over time, as do the house full of trinkets you don’t need.

Money is a very powerful in the sense that it can make us feel really good, or really bad. Distinguishing that wasting money on stuff won’t make us feel better for any length of time is a difficult skill to learn. The sooner we do, the better our bank accounts will look. How, when, where and why did you overcome the need for retail therapy?

 

 

 

How Much House Can We Really Afford?

We’re nowhere near looking to sell our current home. As you know our main priority is to kick our (non-mortage) debt to the curb before considering a move, but a move is still within our future. We have no intentions of moving until we can afford the house we really want (within reason) since it will likely be the house we stay in close to, if not, forever.

Out of total fun I started playing around with online mortgage calculators to see what the online ”experts” thought we could afford being hypothetically debt-free. I put in total worse-case numbers (measly 5% down for example even though I know it will be much more on next home, hoping for 20% and current income numbers) and I was blown away at what numbers it spit out at me.

To keep a little privacy within our home I won’t use exact numbers but that doesn’t matter, you’ll get the point. What three different calculators suggested I could afford as a mortgage payment (excluding property taxes which are upwards of $4,800/year in some areas we’re considering) was almost triple our current mortgage amount and five times what our gross annual income was.

Amortized at 25 years (the maximum amortization in Canada) our minimum mortgage payment at this maximum borrowing price would be almost 2.5x our current payment. Holy baby-and-bearded Jesus.

Needless to say we’re not about to work our arses off to pay off debt and go right into being house poor so we’re obviously not going to take on that sort of debt. When our debt is paid off and we do buy a new home there is a 99% chance the mortgage will be larger. The fact is that prices have gone up since we bought four years ago and we’re in a smaller home in an older area of town. That being said though, we’re not looking to increase substantially in size and like the area we’re in.

When it comes to what we are comfortable with I’d like to keep our mortgage and property tax payment to no more than an increase of $400 per month (than we’re currently paying). That may seem like a lot to some but we have to consider we currently live in a cheaper property tax area and most surrounding areas are not so lucky. Of the $400 increase in monthly payments I suspect $150 of that to account for property tax increase. The $400 additional is also accounting for a lower amortization term than we currently have.

I’d like to be totally debt free by the time I’m 50 (total arbitrary number) and given our ages and income prospective I think it will be possible. I also have to consider the possibility of moving into our new home and paying it off very quickly (ten years max) and only then start investing for retirement. It’s a possibility that’s for sure. We have a lot to think about but for now I’ll play pretend on MLS :)

 Do you live in the top of your affordability bracket?

Our DIY Bar and Kegerator

wpid-wp-1411303938689.jpegI’ll never forget the day we moved into our home. We arrived before the real estate agent on closing day to do the final walk through. As we were anxiously awaiting his arrival I was peeking my nose in the widow and noticed something protruding from the wall that I hadn’t seen before. I turned to my husband and pointed to the wall that, during the open house had a large desk against it, and inquired about what was sticking out from the wall in our basement.

While I was formulating a mental plan about how we were going to deal with the removal of these pipes sticking out from the wall my husband had a very different thought process going on. Before I could say anything he turned to me and said nothing but ”wet bar”. Though we weren’t yet in the house to inspect the pipes my husband was fairly confident they were water hookup pipes and we could easily hook them up to a wet bar he now had every intention of building.

Though I was annoyed, he was elated. Like a kid in Christmas morning finding extra candy at the bottom of the stocking. It didn’t take long for our required to-do list (like painting the walls) to take a bit of a back burner to make room for the creative juices to flow about this new project. And so the birth of our bar started.

I didn’t really care what he wanted to do, as long as we didn’t need to spend too much money on it. I also didn’t want something so permanent that future owners wouldn’t be able to easily remove it. With the help of his grandfather my husband created a pretty decent little DIY bar using leftover cabinetry and countertops from our kitchen renovation. Total cost, almost nothing. He did have to buy a few sheets of meranti wood, some extra moulding and few things he didn’t already have for the plumbing but that didn’t set us back any more than $50. After the bar was complete he found a seconds cabinet at a local hardware store for cheap, it was a few years ago now but I want to say he spent another $50 on the cabinet he uses to store all his collective glassware.

So for approximately $100 we were able to build a functioning wet bar complete with running water and storage. Two years after completion we added a mini fridge that we got on after-Christmas clearance for less than $100. Given how often we entertain (we make up excuses to host friends and family) it was a welcome addition but my husband still lusted for a functioning bar tap and kegerator. He had a vision and wasn’t going to stop until the liquid gold poured from his own bar tap.

We’re lucky that my husband’s cousin is an accomplished craft beer maker who is also involved in making home kegerators. He was able to give him a breakdown of everything he’d need to make a fully functional kegerator part-by-part. With the info in hand hubby started to save his pennies. He stashed his extra money and freelance income into his Tangerine account (use my Orange Key if interested in opening an account 40755676S1) until he had enough. Last weekend we tasted the beer from our keg for the first time and I think my husband’s purpose in life is now complete.

The DIY Kegerator cost more than the bar, totaling $500. This includes every single part needed from the fridge to the tap itself and every piece in between. Was it worth it? Well, it was my husband’s money to do what he wanted with but I will say yes anyway.

The Keg holds approximately 50 glasses of beer which cost about $20 to fill. I don’t know anywhere else you can get a glass of beer for $0.40. If we wanted to buy a 2-4 of beer we’re looking at $43 (don’t even get me started on how much alcohol costs here). Four times the amount of our new keg beer. It’s really good craft beer thanks to our hook-up! Hubby isn’t interested in making his own just yet so we’ll continue to fill the kegs when we want it.

Though this is very much a want and not a need we’re going to enjoy having it, especially when we get the other keg set up with my favorite raspberry wheat ale…I forsee more gym visits in my future to burn the beer off :)

Would You Submit a Video Resume?

The other day an interesting article came across my email about the considerations of doing a video resume. I didn’t read past the title before I thought ”why have I never considered this before?”. In 2014 we’re emailing resumes and cover letters in hopes of gaining an interview so why not modernize the whole process a little?

When I was in high school a guy came in and talked about tips for resume and cover letter writing, tips I still apply today. One of the tips he offered to make your resume stand out, if you were so inclined, was to attach a photo of yourself. Since we as humans are very visual learners the interviewer is more likely to remember your resume if they can associate something (ie the picture) with it, gaining you a higher chance of getting the interview.

Your resume gets you an interview.

You get yourself the job.

Once you gain the interview you need to slay it and convince them why you need to get the job.

Video resumes make so much sense in some industries, others not so much. Personally, I am in a field where I could see it being beneficial. It could be edited in such a way where I could include clips of me interacting with patients (fake or real) for the interviewer to see how it is I do my job. I’m in an industry that relies on good patient interaction and rapport building skills. These are skills that though I can put them on paper don’t mean anything until they see it in practice.

Working interviews are popular in my line of work. Where, usually after a formal interview, you are asked to come back for a few hours to a full day (for pay) and work as you would if it was already your job so they can watch you and see how it is you work. Applying the words from your resume into practice so to speak. Though this draws the interview process out a little longer than usual there is, in my opinion, more of an insurance policy with this type of interview as the risk of hiring without seeing how they work is eliminated.

A video resume could, essentially, replace this entire step. Again, using my line of work as the example, if they went right from video interview to formal interview it could save time and money (by not having to pay someone to come in and work for working interview). Interviews are sometimes done via Skype, why not land that interview with a stellar video resume?

What do you think? Would you do a video resume? As someone who may be in a position to do the hiring, would you like video resumes?